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Authors: Magnolia Belle

T'on Ma

BOOK: T'on Ma
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T'on Ma
By Magnolia Belle
The team:
Editor: Connie Webb
[email protected]
Web Design: Kirk Osburne
Web Graphics Source [email protected]
http://www.webgraphicssource.com
Illustrator: Ken Faulks
http://kenfaulksillustration.com
[email protected]
© 2006 Magnolia Belle
ISBN: 1-4120-9726-6
Published by Trafford Publishing
www.blackwolfbooks.com
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without
prior permission of Black Wolf Books, Inc.

This book is dedicated to my Native American ancestors.
I don't know your names or your faces,
But I feel your heartbeat
And hear your voices in my dreams.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1
T'on Ma
Chapter 2
Blackberries
Chapter 3
The Hunt
Chapter 4
Fire!
Chapter 5
Water Buckets
Chapter 6
Guests For Dinner
Chapter 7
Don't Touch Me!
Chapter 8
Red Flint
Chapter 9
Liam O'Connell
Chapter 10
Scattered Beads
Chapter 11
A Very High Price
Chapter 12
Wait For Night
Chapter 13
Scattering the Wind
Chapter 14
Find Your People
Chapter 15
I'll Wait
Chapter 16
Just Leave Her Be
Chapter 17
We'll Make Room
Chapter 18
Three Women
Chapter 19
You Earned It
Chapter 20
Mail
Chapter 21
The Feast
Chapter 22
Outrun the Truth
Chapter 23
One Man, One Woman, One Love
Chapter 24
Don't!
Chapter 25
Follow Her Wisdom
Chapter 26
Flowers
Chapter 27
The Wedding
Chapter 28
I Need Your Answer
Chapter 29
Are You Sure About This?
Chapter 30
A Little Overwhelmed
Chapter 31
Cuss The Barn
Chapter 32
Doubly Wicked
Chapter 33
The Palomino
Chapter 34
The Telegram
Chapter 35
A Wall of Disapproving Looks
Chapter 36
Are We Clear?
Chapter 37
Becca
Chapter 38
Little Spitfire
Chapter 39
Utmost Contempt
Chapter 40
Shadow of Doubt
Chapter 41
Gallows
Chapter 42
You Win
Chapter 43
Shreveport
Chapter 44
Make Her Wake Up
Chapter 45
A Psalm Was Read
Chapter 46
Two Horses And One Rifle
Chapter 47
I Choose You
Chapter 48
Thirsty For You
Notes

Seventeen-year-old Lana sat beside the slow-running river and pulled off her shoes and socks, her toes wiggling in delight at their newfound freedom. Late August afternoons in Texas were the hottest part of the day, of the year - too hot to do chores or to stay inside the sod house where there was no air. This was a perfect time to swim and maybe to wash her hair.

Lana stood, removed her dress and underthings, and carefully laid them across a bush. She gingerly picked her way across rocks and around grass burrs, and then walked into the river until the water came to just under her navel. As she undid her braid, she let her long, brown hair fall loose down her back and shoulders. She leaned forward and gently fell into the water, its coolness a delight against her hot, sweaty skin. This was heaven!

The young woman swam and floated for a few moments but, wanting her soap, she stopped and took a few steps in the waist-deep water toward the riverbank. A noise behind her made her whirl around.

Several yards away, a Kiowa brave sat on a magnificent black horse, staring intently at the nude woman. Lana froze, not sure what to do. She hadn't brought a gun with her. The house was so close, she hadn't thought she needed to.

Don't show him you're afraid,
she thought to herself.
Stare him down and he'll leave
. Calmly, she faced her uninvited visitor while she tried to slow her breathing.

He was young, maybe a few years older than Lana - wild, fierce, haughty. No paint adorned his face, so she decided that he must simply be hunting or traveling.

The brave continued staring at her with fearless, piercing brown eyes. Then his eyes flicked away, searching for the men he knew must be near. When his gaze returned to her blue eyes, she read her death in his face. But something stopped him; his expression softened. She didn't know that her beauty caused a debate in his mind - kill her or take her captive? Before Lana knew her fate, a man's voice called from behind the rise on the other side of the river, causing the brave's head to jerk at the sound.

"Lana? Girl, where are you?" Joshua Cooper yelled.

"I'm right here, Pa," Lana answered, not turning away from the Kiowa. "At the river."

"Well, hurry up! Your ma needs you in the kitchen."

"Pa? I'm in trouble."

As the words left her mouth, the brave reined his horse away and trotted across the prairie. Lana sank to her knees while she tried to quit shaking.

"What kind of trouble?" Her father's voice sounded much closer as he neared the small rise. Lana hurried out of the river and grabbed her dress, holding it against her.

"Kiowa. But he's gone now."

Her scowling father walked past her and forded the river where he made a close inspection of the area.

"Just one of 'em?" he asked as she scrambled into her clothes.

"Yes, Pa. Just one."

Making his way back, Joshua shook his head at her. "Come on to the house. I reckon he's gone."

* * *

Two Hawks made his way to the summer camp of his village as he thought of what he had just seen. Homesteaders had come to the plains and had driven his people out, killing game, grabbing the land as if they owned it, making Kiowa life difficult. Tension and hostility broke out continually. The whites' Great Father kept making and breaking promises. Two Hawks didn't know what to believe. Apparently, the whites had more than one Great Father. It must be confusing for them, he decided. No wonder they were so strange.

And the woman in the river? He shook his head. Rumors of people with blue eyes had reached his village, but he didn't believe them. No one had blue eyes unless they were from the spirit world. Yet, hadn't he just stared into crystal blue eyes? And hadn't they stared back unafraid? What if she was a spirit woman? Maybe it was a good thing that he hadn't killed her. Nodding his head once, he decided he would call her T'on Ma (Water Woman).

* * *

Joshua Cooper had survived the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, but it left him exhausted in body and in mind. There had been too much hatred, too much death, too much turmoil, and he was done. Moving with his wife and family of three sons and one daughter, he made his way to north Texas. A farmer by trade, he thought perhaps he could raise cattle as well.

They reached their land in June of 1850. It set just south of where the Salt Fork and the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River met. Kiowa Peak rose in the distance.

With the help of his three sons, Nathan, nineteen, Paul, sixteen, and Jake, thirteen, Joshua soon had a sod house constructed. Being scarce, timber was used mainly for a door and for framing the windows. Perhaps one day there would be enough to cover the dirt floor. The Coopers had no money for glass windows, so sheets of waxy paper stretched across the window openings to let in a dim, muted light. Wooden shutters had been made to keep out rain and arrows. Netting hung across the ceiling to keep mice from falling through the sod roof onto unsuspecting sleepers below.

The rectangular house had three rooms. One bedroom, on the left, was for Joshua and his wife, May. Their three sons slept in the bedroom on the right.

The last and largest room sat between the two bedrooms. It featured a fireplace on the left, and a long wooden table and several chairs in the middle. A kitchen counter ran along the front wall, underneath a window. The only family luxury, an oak hutch, had come straight from England with May's grandmother many decades before. The blue and white pattern of the Delft dishes that sat on the hutch lent the only splash of color to the otherwise dark room. Lana had a cot against the far right corner where she would pull across a blanket hung from the ceiling for privacy.

With the house built, the next projects were building a barn, smoke house, and root cellar. Through careful planning, Joshua had enough provisions to keep his family going through the winter until next spring.

While the men were building, Lana and her mother were expected to collect as many buffalo chips as they could find. These would be used as fuel. The women would also forage for roots, berries, and herbs and would cut and dry as much prairie grass as they could to keep the horses fed through the winter. Every spare minute of each day was spent providing for their survival so far away from civilization, from stores, from medicine.

* * *

Once back at his village, Two Hawks tethered his horse outside his mother's tipi and went to find his father. "I've seen a white woman today," he announced as he sat beside his father, who was busy making arrows.

"What?" Many Deer looked up at his son. "Where?"

"About two
spans
1
from here. She wasn't alone, either. I heard a man's voice calling to her."

Many Deer scowled. When would these people go away and leave them in peace?

"Should we go back tomorrow and kill them?" Two Hawks asked.

"Perhaps. Let me talk to some of the
Dog Soldiers
2
first." Many Deer picked up an arrow shaft and inspected it for straightness. "Do you know how many there are?"

"No. I didn't see. They were behind a hill." His father only nodded. That wasn't much information to plan a raid on, though Kiowa were renown throughout the area for their fearless attacks.

"The woman was different," Two Hawks said after a moment. "Her eyes were blue like the sky."

"Blue?"
Many Deer looked carefully at his son. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. Even from a distance, I could see that they were blue."

Many Deer scowled. This could be a sign, an omen. Like his son, like everyone in the village, they had all heard the story of people with blue eyes. But to have actually seen one…

"Perhaps we shouldn't kill them without learning more. I'll ask the others and see," his father decided. Many Deer continued with his arrow making, waiting until the fires were lit, supper cooked, and everyone's stomachs full before bringing this discussion to the Dog Soldiers.

Later that evening, after much debate and counsel, the Dog Soldiers finally decided that three of them should go on a trading mission. While there, they could look around and see how many settlers there were, how many guns they had, and if there were any horses worth stealing. Two Hawks would be one of the trading party, to show them the way. Broken Man, as the eldest, would lead them, and Crying Fox would go along as added protection and an extra pair of eyes.

* * *

Two days after the river incident, Lana gathered eggs from the hens that had survived their journey to this new place. The fourth egg had been carefully placed in the bottom of the basket when she heard horses. Looking up, she saw three Kiowa riding slowly toward the house.

"PA! - PA! Come quick!"

Joshua and his sons stepped from behind the sod wall of the partially-finished barn, each bearing a rifle. Nathan stood behind his father. Paul kept his hand on Jake's shoulder.

Joshua cautiously approached the three Kiowa, his rifle barrel pointed toward the ground. They didn't look like they were there for trouble.

"Get in the house, girl!" Joshua ordered.

Lana scurried across the yard and ducked into the house with her mother. Peering through the crack in the door, she looked at the braves and recognized the one from the river. Two older men accompanied him. All three had their braids wrapped in fur, their ears adorned with Mexican silver. The man in the middle raised his hand toward Joshua in a sign of peace. Joshua returned the gesture and invited the braves to step down.

The men dismounted, Two Hawks throwing his right leg over his horse's neck and jumping lightly to his feet. They took a few steps toward Joshua and then sat on the ground. The oldest brave produced a pipe and tobacco.

"Paul," Joshua said to his middle son, "get coffee enough to go around. Put lots of sugar in theirs. Nathan, you help him."

The two sons obediently went into the house and returned a few minutes later carrying the hot, sweetened beverage in tin cups. Nathan had a folded blanket under one arm. Joshua reached for it and spread it in front of the Kiowa. Then, taking the coffee from his sons, he sat a cup down in front of each brave. The four homesteaders joined the Kiowa on the ground, sitting on the opposite side of the blanket.

After the amenities were observed, Two Hawks rose and walked to his horse, where he untied a large bundle. He threw it into the middle of the blanket and then repeated the same process twice more.

Nathan spread the bundles out for a quick inspection.

"They've got rabbit and coyote pelts in here, Pa. It's all prime, too." The Cooper family needed those pelts to make clothing against the bitter, subzero winter weather common on the high plains.

"I guess they want to trade." Joshua said, and then turned to shout over his shoulder. "Ma, bring the trading sugar and molasses out."

In a few minutes, the door opened and May and Lana stepped through, carrying their trade goods. May set a small sack of hard sugar on the blanket in front of Broken Man. Lana placed two jugs of molasses beside it and stepped back. As she did so, she glanced nervously at Two Hawks, who had watched her since she came out of the house. Opening one of the jugs, he poked his finger in and then pulled it out, covered in rich, sticky sweetness. As he stuck his finger in his mouth, he looked at Broken Man and grinned, nodding.

Crying Fox said something to Two Hawks, then rose and mounted his horse. Two Hawks picked up the two jugs and handed them to Crying Fox. The Coopers stood up as Broken Man also mounted his horse. Two Hawks returned to the blanket and stepped over to Lana. Holding her chin in his right hand, he stared deeply into her eyes. Yes, they
were
really blue.

Lana quit breathing, afraid to move or to blink. She desperately tried to remove the fear from her eyes. But, if she could hear her heart pounding this loudly, she was sure he could, too.

"T'on Ma
," he said, pointing to her chest.
"T'on Ma
."

"Let her go!" Joshua ordered, his rifle pointing straight at the young Kiowa. Two Hawks looked disdainfully over his shoulder at Joshua, dropped his hand from Lana's face, and grunted. Swooping down, he picked up the sugar sack and then effortlessly jumped back on his horse, his long braid swinging behind him.

The three braves turned their horses and rode away without any concern for the rifles at their backs. The trade had been a good one. There would be feasting tonight.

The trading party rode back to the village, triumphantly announcing their arrival with shouts and song. Small children ran around them like so many clucking hens pecking grain. Two Hawks slid off his horse and held the sugar sack above his head.

"Sweet!" he proclaimed. Crying Fox stood beside him and lifted the two molasses jugs as well, looking proudly at the people. This was a rare treat, indeed, for his village. Two Hawks gave his mother the sugar in an honorary gesture, just as Crying Fox gave the molasses to his wife. The two women were in charge of these luxuries until the feast that night. Their men had made them proud, had given them esteem in the eyes of the village.

The three braves then met with the elders to give their report.

"It's only one small family," Broken Man said. "One man and three sons, his wife and daughter."

"But the men all had rifles," Crying Fox added.

"What of horses?" someone asked.

"I only saw two of them. Even our poorest are better than those."

"Hmmm." The men looked at each other and at the ground as they considered this information. How much trouble would one family with two poor horses be? Or, for that matter, how much trouble would they be to get rid of?

"What of the blue eyes?"

"I saw them," Broken Man said. "It's just like Two Hawks told us. The girl has blue eyes."

"Hmmm."

This was the tricky part. What did those blue eyes mean, exactly? Was she a spirit woman? Was she a medicine woman? Would harming her bring a curse to their village? These questions needed time in order to be answered properly.

BOOK: T'on Ma
6.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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